Happy Mother’s Day. I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day. Jeny was treated royally by our sons. It was good for me to remember my mom. We formed a special bond during World War II. She had to work while Dad was away at the war. During the week she took me to her cousin Vi every day. Vi was larger than life. A big woman with a hearty laugh and giver of great hugs. I was blessed to have two special women give me abundant love during my first four years of life.

Early Memories. I can recall early moments in my life because we moved to Manhattan after the war, so dad could attend Kansas State University. I was four years old when we moved. The distinct change in locations make the early memories easy to recall. In thinking about mom on Mother’s Day, I thought about some specific events in those early years and how they shaped me.

I recall three particular events that helped develop my caring side. First, every day on the way to Vi’s house we passed a house with a Down Syndrome adult sitting on the front porch. He always waved a gave a big smile. I know in my heart that helped develop my appreciation for the developmentally handicapped. They have and always will have a special place in my heart.

We lived on the southwest corner of Coldwater Kansas. A dirt road went west from our house into the farmlands. The second event occurred one evening on that road. Several older children were walking west. I do not know what they were doing. In hindsight I expect they were going to smoke and did not want a little brother around.

In any case, I remember a young child coming back toward our house. He was sobbing. The older kids would not let him go with them. In my heart I think this event helped me to care for the underdog, the mistreated, the abused.

The final situation occurred in my back yard. I would play with my toys with the nearest neighbor boys. I remember they had no toys. They were too poor. I know that affected my development. Several years later, in Wichita, I remember a neighbor did not get a gift for Christmas. I gave him my sweatshirt. I believe the events are connected and I deeply appreciate the developmental experiences.

As I am more involved in poetry, I find many people write from the pain of their early days. Abuse, mistreatment, misunderstandings, discrimination, poverty – the list is long. The expanse of the pain puts me on my knees in thanksgiving.

 Upper room. Not only have I tried tohelp mentally challenged people, I have learned from them. The first devotional I wrote for the Upper Room was about a lesson a mentally challenged person taught me.

Harry Reber was a member of the L’Arche community in Mobile. L’Arche is an international organization for severely challenged people. The Mobile organization is no longer under the international umbrella and is called The First Light Community.

Harry attended the church where we worshipped. He was supposed to sit with the other challenged people who attended our church. He chose to sit with us. It made some of the members nervous.

Harry would sing the hymns, if he knew the words. If he did not know the words, he just sat quietly.

During one hymn, a lady sitting behind us began to cry. Something about that particular song touched her. Being a proper Presbyterian and not wanting to embarrass her, I focused my eyes straight ahead. Harry got up and went back and gave her a hug. The act was an act of pure love.

Henri Nouwen. I am not alone in learning from mentally challenged people. Henri Nouwen was a Roman Catholic priest and scholar from the Netherlands. He was tenured at Notre Dame, tenured at Yale and tenured at Harvard.

A woman from Mobile visited him and suggested that for his next sabbatical he should spend time in a L’Arche community. He did.

After he completed his sabbatical, he returned to Harvard and met his obligations. Then he left Harvard and lived the last 10 years of his life in the Daybreak community in Canada.

Phillip Yancy in his book, Grace Notes, writes of his visit with Henri. They celebrated the birthday of Adam, a profoundly handicapped man. Adam showed no awareness of the celebration. He drooled throughout and grunted loudly a few times.

Henri was responsible for Adam. Henri took two hours every morning with Adam to bathe him, shave him, brush his teeth, comb his hair and help him eat. Henri with all his education told Yancy, “I am not giving up anything. It is I not Adam, who gets the main benefit from our friendship.” Henri learned about unconditional love through his experiences with Adam.

Henri said all of his life he had two voices in his head. One encouraged him to achieve and succeed. The other encouraged him to rest in the knowledge he was beloved by God. He was learning to rest.

Good News

I thought the good news this week was particularly good. I hope you enjoy it.

‘This Baby’s Not Dying Today’: Stranger Saves Infant From Burning Home (sunnyskyz.com)

A Rescued German Shepherd Saves Owner’s Life Just Months After Adoption (sunnyskyz.com)

‘It Was Nice To See Them Smile’: 10-Year-Old Spreads Joy On Mother’s Day (sunnyskyz.com)

91-Year-Old Donates $500,000 To Local Fire Department (sunnyskyz.com)




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